Maybe you picture a single-room cabin in rural New England, an aged easel in one corner, pencil-sketches and “I’ll-finish-it-someday” paintings papering the walls. If you’re like me, you envision something more like the title sequence from Masterpiece Theatre: Mouret’s “Rondeau” pops and crackles among a sporadic collection of literature, art, and antiques. Of course, you might see something entirely different.
Whether it’s a physical location or a frame of mind, all creatives search for that place. We’ve seen it in movies: an unpredictable, yet expected idea sparks an all-nighter of scribbling in notebooks and frantic typing. In that place, you see, our imaginations come alive, artsiness flows like a waterfall, “writer’s block” isn’t even a term, and we harvest ideas like Midwestern corn.
Last year, I spent some time with recording artist and author, Andrew Peterson. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Peterson, you should be. I’ve heard him weave 2,000 years of history into a single song. He wrote an entire album — then turned it into his Behold the Lamb of God tour — that tells the story of Jesus Christ, from creation to the cross. And get this: Peterson only does music as a day job. He also authors The Wingfeather Saga, a series of children’s fantasy novels.
We can, I think, consider Mr. Peterson a creative.
I asked him about how he engages his imagination, how he prepares to write or compose. I expected to hear something about a favorite coffee shop, a summer home on the West coast of Florida, or maybe a particularly productive time of day. Mr. Peterson didn’t mention any of those things.
He replied: “All I do is get my guitar out of the case and I put it [on my guitar stand] and it’s like Jesus’ eyes in the painting that just follow you wherever you go. The guitar just stares me down and reminds me that I just have to work. The imagination is something that doesn’t work unless you’re doing something. The idea of the artist sitting around pondering, sitting in a flower field, doesn’t work. You have to get your hands in it. When it comes to creativity, it’s very much work.”
The imagination is something that doesn’t work unless you’re doing something.
According to Mr. Peterson — who, by the way, released his tenth album in late August — creativity consists not of ethereal bursts of imagination, but rather of determination and hard work. For him, that means picking up his guitar, even when he doesn’t want to do so, and plucking his way to artistry. For me, that means putting one word in front of another, even when I’m in a place nowhere like Masterpiece Theatre. Of course, you’ll need to decide what Mr. Peterson’s description of creativity means for you.
So, let’s leave behind the idea that we can sit around some idyllic studio and wait for the “aha!” moment. Someday, sometime, perhaps it will happen. Most of the time, though, creativity is a blue-collar, roll-up-your-sleeves kind of thing.
GUEST BLOGGER / AARON HANBURY
Aaron Cline Hanbury is the managing editor of Southern Seminary Magazine and Towers news magazine. Originally from Jacksonville, Fla., he now lives in the Crescent Hill neighborhood of Louisville, Ky.
To connect with Aaron — or just to eavesdrop on his random bouts of social media — follow him on Twitter: ACHanbury
( empty notebook )
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